Occupy AIPAC Confronts Bibi Netanyahu's Insane Push for War with Iran
Photo Credit: Alex Kane
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Palestinian flags flew high while Arabic music blared and young Palestinian women wearing kaffiyeh scarves danced in a circle. Mock settlements were lined up in front of a group of activists, while the anti-war group CodePink gathered on the steps of the Washington Convention Center holding signs that spelled out “No US Tax $ For Israel.” Activists chanted “Free, free Palestine,” and signs held high decried the assassinations of Iranian scientists and a potential U.S. or Israeli war on Iran. A large banner was unfurled in the back that read, “Occupy AIPAC.”
This was the scene on March 4, Occupy AIPAC's main day of action. Hundreds of activists had begun to arrive the day before for the counter-summit, organized by CodePink, challenging the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the center of gravity of the Israel lobby.
“I’m back in DC, here with Occupy AIPAC...because I think it’s really important we put pressure on AIPAC to let them know that we don’t agree with their buying off of Congress for the state of Israel,” Ann Wright, a former U.S. colonel who resigned from her State Department post in protest of the Iraq war in 2003, told AlterNet.
AIPAC's annual conference kicked off that day, and the hundreds of anti-AIPAC demonstrators massed outside the Washington Convention Center were determined to have their message heard. Police officers and private security kept the convention center closed to most of the protesters. Still, a number of disruptions of the AIPAC conference occurred as a small number of activists who managed to get inside “mic checked” Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Florida, and interrupted a session about “defending Israel” on college campuses.
An impassioned speech by Ashira Hakan, an activist from Palestine who had just arrived in DC, tried to bring the reality of occupied Palestine home to the AIPAC conference. She explained how Mustafa Tamimi, a 28-year-old Palestinian, was killed by Israeli soldiers in the village of Nabi Saleh, and how Palestinian children were terrorized by night raids. “Look at the faces of the children,” she implored, referencing YouTube videos of the raids.
Earlier, Occupy AIPAC protesters gathered on both sides of the street where President Obama's motorcade was due to emerge. When the motorcade passed, protesters chanted and held up huge “No War on Iran” signs.
“AIPAC is pushing Congress, and trying to push the administration, toward war with Iran,” explained Robert Naiman, policy director for Just Foreign Policy. “The thing we want to get across is that it's time for a change in U.S. policy towards the Middle East away from war and towards resolving problems through diplomacy.”
But a much different message about U.S. policy in the Middle East was being conveyed inside the halls of the convention center. The rhetoric emanating from AIPAC, whose annual conference draws thousands of activists and hundreds of elected officials from across the political spectrum, was decidedly hawkish, and it was all about Iran. Iran war fever officially washed over DC last weekend.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's speech on March 5 captured the hysterical tone of the Israel lobby's confab. To thunderous applause, Netanyahu, the head of the right-wing Likud Party, delivered remarks to a room that included more than half the members of Congress. The American-educated leader followed a familiar script.
“A nuclear-armed Iran must be stopped,” Netanyahu warned. “We’ve waited for diplomacy to work. We’ve waited for sanctions to work. None of us can afford to wait much longer,” he said, hinting at future military action against Iran.
Netanyahu went on to invoke the specter of the Holocaust, and the story behind the Jewish holiday of Purim. “In synagogues throughout the world, the Jewish people will celebrate the festival of Purim,” he said. “We will read how some 2,500 years ago, a Persian anti-Semite tried to annihilate the Jewish people.” The clear message was that the Iranian regime was comparable to Nazi Germany and Haman, the antagonist in the Purim story who plotted to wipe out the Jews hundreds of years before the birth of Christ.